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Lighter Meal Ideas: Easy Substitutions for Classic Dishes

woman-refrigerator-healthy-foodCook lighter tonight ... and they may not even notice! Check out these healthy substitution ideas—all from registered dietitians. Plus: Ideas to add nutrition to some of your classic recipes.

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Light BREAKFAST Substitutions

IF YOU LIKE ... TRY ...

butter on toast, waffles or pankakes

pear, prune or apple butter for a richly satisfying taste but less fat and cholesterol and fewer calories. —Ruggiero

bacon and sausage for Sunday brunch
Canadian bacon, turkey bacon, smoked turkey or lean prosciutto (Italian ham) to reduce calories and fat. —Ruggiero
sweetened instant oatmeal preparing multiple servings using the old-fashioned variety. Add chopped apple, pear, dates and/or raisins as the oats cook, for great flavor without excessive sugar. Refrigerate; heat individual portions. —Duryea

Light LUNCH AND DINNER / SUPPER Substitutions
IF YOU LIKE ... TRY ...
pizza
ordering it without cheese or asking for part-skim mozzarella, with lots of vegetables. Or bring home cheeseless vegetable pizza; add the low-fat cheese yourself, and pop it under the broiler for a minute or two. Heller

Light SIDES Substitutions
IF YOU LIKE ... TRY ...
potato chips kale-chips-light-snack"kale-tato chips": Wash and dry kale (near lettus in the supermarket). Rip into bite-sized pieces. Spritz with cooking oil; sprinkle with salt. Spread on cookie sheet in single layer. Bake at 375º eight to 10 minutes. (Watch closely.) This high-fiber snack has more nutrients than potato chips but surprisingly similar taste and texture. —Priebe
regular ranch dressing mixing 1 tablespoon of dressing with 1 tablespoon of low-fat or nonfat sour cream. Nisevich
fruity salad dressing
white grape juice in place of oil, and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette. Apple and pineapple juices also work well. —Sandon (Editor's note: Some fat with your salad can be healthy, though. Read why in the box labeled "Combinations That Do Work" on this page.)
butter on baked potatoes olive oil and balsamic vinegar for more flavor and less saturated fat. —Priebe

Light DESSERT Substitutions
IF YOU LIKE ... TRY ...

pie a la mode

baked apple or fruit compote with fruit sorbet, for more fruit and fiber and less sugar, saturated fat and calories. Hingle
pean pie chocolate-pudding-light-dessertpudding topped with pecans. —Sandon
dessert angel food cake topped with unsweetened frozen berries and fat-free whipped topping. (Let the berries defrost and get nice and juicy; add some fresh if you like.) One serving is around 200 calories. —Neily
cookies whole-grain Fig Newtons for less fat, 2 grams of fiber and the benefits of whole grain in a sweet treat. —Sandon
bringing cookies to holiday parties bringing a festive alternative: sliced star fruit.Bedwell
sweets
mixing together 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit and 1/4 cup of Honey Nut Cheerios, for fewer calories and more fiber than many other sweet treats. Nisevich
chocolate indulgence: one piece of really good, expensive chocolate (instead of grazing on a bagful of lower-quality empty calories). Nisevich
hard candy dried fruits, for the sweet taste plus vitamin C and fiber. —Sandon

Light SNACK AND DRINK Substitutions
IF YOU LIKE ... TRY ...
eggnog

Silk Nog, made of soymilk, and save around 165 calories and 11 grams of saturated fat per cup! Bingham

buttery kettle corn

low-fat or air-popped popcorn; spray with nonfat butter spray, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cinnamon sugar over the top. —Nisevich

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The Experts


Last updated and/or approved: May 2010. Tips originally appeared in various issues of the former print magazine. Bios current as of their original appearance dates. This article is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.

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